Form Trumps Myth in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 37

By Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

My Green Lantern fandom often feels like a relic from a time before I truly understood what I loved about comics. I love the limits of the medium — the way an artist has to imply light and sound and movement and time all on a still page which literally possesses none of these qualities. So much of a comic story, for me, is in how it is told, rather than what it’s telling. But Green Lantern is a myth-making franchise, and the moment-to-moment storytelling can often be measured by the twists and connections it makes to its own winding history. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 37 eschews that entirely, pulling one of Superman’s Big Bads into the ring for some refreshingly innovative visual storytelling.

Writer Robert Venditti smartly starts the issue with a single page flashforward. Normally, these kinds of flashforwards are setting some kind of plot goal-posts, a promise that “we’ll get to this action eventually, so please forgive the exposition you’re about to encounter.” A broken and beaten Hal drags himself across a forest floor while a menacing voice spits “you […] were unwise to come here uninvited, Green Lantern.” The next page is an enormous two-page splash revealing the identity of the speaker, but really, we already knew it was going to be Zod. The name of the arc is “Zod’s Will” and the Superman nemesis is on the fucking cover. So it’s not plot Venditti and artist Rafa Sandoval are teasing, but method. Look at the paneling on this first page.

Hal doubled over on his hands and knees

These panel dividers are immediately evocative of two things — the radio waves (or whatever) that cary Hal’s SOS message and the marks from Hal’s finger tips as he claws his way to safety. The next couple pages that find us back in the presence of the Guardians of the Universe will see Sandoval returning to orderly rectangular panels, but in the horrifying presence of Zod, the layouts are more expressive.

And that’s a cool juxtaposition to see. John Stewart chewing out the Guardians is classic Green Lantern, a fact that John calls out in real time. “I’ve stood in this spot before. In front of a group like you, dressed in robes like those.” Sandoval’s right angle layouts reinforce the rhythmic predictability of this set up. He loosens up when we get to the business of Hal and Kyle off on their own, introducing slightly odd angles to the page. But the paneling goes from “odd” and “loose” to straight-up bonkers once they start fighting Zod and his Kryptonian goons. There are too many good expressive examples to pull from, but I think my favorite is this two-page layout:

Wing layout

Check out how colorist Tomeu Morey distinguishes between the two fights taking place here by alternating the color of the sky behind them, fixing on orange for Hal and red for Kyle. The rings of panels here do such a great job of propulsively leading the readers eye to that final panel, and the defeat of the the GLs.

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